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Stepping out on to the rear deck is when the technical stuff starts. Charges are shown the gas isolation valve and the spare gas bottle. Deck boards are lifted to point out the battery isolation switch and at the same time the engine oil dipstick and where to put oil should they need to, they are asked to check the oil before they start the engine in the mornings. Lifting the rear deck board I show them the spare oil should they need it. A demonstration of the stern tube greaser and when to use it is followed by showing them how to open the weed hatch should they have a problem with weeds on the prop. They are told in no uncertain terms that failure to secure the hatch could well sink the boat. Hammer, pins and windlasses are shown and a verbal note that the use of these will be demonstrated at the lock. I always tell them to take the stern rope off the t-stud and coil it on the top hatch. There are three reasons for this 1. which side you need the rope on is dependant on which side of the canal you moor up. 2. if left on the deck someone may trip and fall in the canal. 3. If the rope is accidently kicked into the water it will probably end up wrapped around the prop which will waste a couple of hours
A demonstration of how to start and stop the engine is followed by the operation of the throttle showing tick-over speed, for passing moored boats, and normal cruising speed. Steering the boat: At this point I explain the arc of the tiller and the dangers of standing/sitting inside this arc. I demonstrate a suitable position for operating the tiller and throttle. I emphasize left to go right; right to go left and I always tell them that the man with his hand on the tiller is the responsible person in the event of an incident. I get the customer to acknowledge their understanding with a few questions. The most difficult customers are the stag cruisers. Guys are guys and as we all know guys know everything. They always try to finish your sentence and their attention span is limited. They just want to get away on their trip.
Once the technicalities have been dealt with we have a chat about the rules of the water, speed etc and the general niceties of boating, slowing down, and a few signatures confirming their understanding of their responsibility while the boat is under their control. Should a hirer be an old hand the contact we have with them is limited to showing them around the boat. While doing this I try to ascertain their level of skill, asking a few questions. Sometimes ‘old hands’ are apt to embellish the truth a bit so they are asked to list their experience and sign as to the accuracy of that which they have written. Despite our best intentions recently one group of older hirers shot off down the canal like a bullet.
Oxfordshire Narrowboats is no different to Avis, Budget, Eurocar, Hertz or any other car rental company. They provide the vehicle it is the responsibility of the driver to drive the car in a safe manner. Once we set the hirer off on his holiday he is solely responsible for the safe operation of the boat. If any one has a problem with how a boat is operated in the first instance he should talk to the hirer. Should the problem not be resolved there and then you can contact the hire base, but you should do this before the hire boats get back to the base and the problem may be able to be addressed on their return. This does not absolve the hirer of his responsibility.
Ok time for the off
. . . .cont/